February 4, 2009

Huskers hang on for 55-53 win over Colorado

BOULDER, Colo. -- Ugly was probably the only way to describe Nebraska's 55-53 win over Colorado on Wednesday night, but the Huskers really don't care how it looked.

All they care about is that they're coming back to Lincoln with two straight Big 12 Conference road wins to their credit.

Despite shooting a dismal 54.2 percent from the free throw line and committing a season-high 18 turnovers, Nebraska (14-7, 4-4 Big 12) was able to hold on by a thread and pull off their first win in Boulder since 2004.

"Anytime you can go on the road and win a game, it is a great feeling," NU head coach Doc Sadler said. "We found a way to win it. We found a way to win it despite shooting 54 percent from the free throw line. We made some plays down the stretch, and I'm just happy for our guys to get a second consecutive road win."

The score never got wider than a couple of possessions either way for the first 35 minutes, but Nebraska finally broke away with roughly six minutes to play with a 7-0 run capped by a Sek Henry 3-pointer that put NU up 46-37 with 4:20 remaining.

Though they seven more points the rest of the game, the Huskers were able to work the clock down to under two minutes while still holding a 46-41 advantage. With 1:40 to play, senior guard Steve Harley was fouled and sent to the line, where he hit both of his free throws to put Nebraska up by seven.

Junior guard Ryan Anderson followed Harley's lead by sinking two free throws with 1:20 left to keep NU up 50-43, and it appeared as if the Huskers would walk away easily with the win.

However, as they have numerous times this season, Nebraska's free throws struggles reared their ugly head again in the final 1:03 to keep the game interesting.

After sophomore guard Cookie Miller hit just one of his two free throws, the Huskers shot just 5-of-12 from the charity stripe in the closing minute. As a result, Colorado was able to chip away at NU's lead and eventually pull to within one point at 54-53 when Dwight Thorne[db] drilled a 3-pointer from the corner with 15.2 remaining.

On the Huskers ensuing possession, Henry was fould with 14.2 on the clock, and he hit just one of his two free throws to give the Buffaloes a chance to win or tie the game. With the final seconds ticking down, CU's [db]Cory Higgins drove to the lane but missed a lay-up. Forward Austin Dufault had a chance at a tip put back, but that also missed, and Henry rebounded and was fouled with 2.6 to play.

With a chance to put the game away, Henry missed both of his free throws, and luckily for NU a desperation half-court shot by Colorado's Levi Knutson fell short, and the Huskers were able to escape with a 55-53 victory.

"I didn't really get worried, but I knew that they were at home and they could hit really big shots towards the end," Henry said. "It was on our mind that we better try to put them out before they make a big Cinderella shot and win this game. But we held on strong and got the victory."

Both teams were cold to open the game, but Nebraska led by slim margin for the first 15 minutes of the first half. The Huskers actually led by as much as seven early in the opening half, when junior guard Ryan Anderson drained a 3-pointer to give NU a 13-6 lead with 12:23 left.

But with the help of 10 first half turnovers, the Huskers let the Buffaloes climb right back into the game and eventually tie it at 20-20 on a basket by Trey Eckloff with 5:15 to go.

The teams traded baskets the rest of the half up until Anderson scored with 54.2 seconds in the half to send Nebraska into halftime with a 27-25 advantage.

Harley and Anderson led the way with a team-high 12 points each, as they were the only Huskers to score in double digits on the night.

With the win, the Huskers picked up consecutive road wins for the first time this season, and now regain some good momentum when they return home for Saturday's nationally televised showdown with Texas at 1 p.m.

"It's unbelievable," Sadler said. "You win on the road in this league, especially after losing to Oklahoma State and Kansas at home, it gives you a chance to stay in the game… I'm exhausted, but I feel great. I'm happy for our players. I mean, our guys, our team is just a team that has to play hard every game."

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